February 2012

Feat of Clay

The marine-inspired ceramics of ANTOINETTE FARAGALLAH are making a splash in high design
by MAYER RUS / first photograph by BARTHOLOMEW COOKE

  • TOURBILLON NO. 24
  • PALM SPRINGS VASE NO. 6
  • VASE WITH ROUND TUBES NO. 17
  • ROUND TABLE WITH SPIKES NO. 15

Ceramist Antoinette Faragallah has no reveries about a childhood fascination with clay or an urgent desire to express herself that compelled her to take up the wheel. A native of Orange County, she worked as a Foley artist, creating sound effects for television and film, as well as a manager of jewelry companies. In 2004, she began taking ceramics classes at a local college. “I just wanted to do something with my hands,” she says. Simple as that.

Faragallah’s nonchalance belies the fact that, in less than a decade, she’s emerged as one of the most intriguing artists in contemporary pottery. Her painstakingly crafted vessels have drawn raves from insiders on both sides of the Atlantic, exciting audiences at such prestigious shows as Le Parcours Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the inaugural Pavilion of Art & Design in New York.

Her pieces are bravura composites of basic forms thrown on the wheel and finished with handmade embellishments. Each takes three to six months to produce, and her inspiration comes from the the alluring shapes and colors of sea life. “I’m fascinated by the ocean,” she says. “The underwater world seems like it moves in slow motion—quiet and undulating. It’s like a fantasy.”

Faragallah’s introduction to the beau monde has been shepherded by Paris interior designer Chahan Minassian. After seeing a sampling of her work at a French design fair in 2010, Minassian gave the artist her solo exhibition at the Parcours later that year. When Minassian and his jeweler cousin Vram Minassian opened the Gray Gallery in West Hollywood, Faragallah’s seductive forms were a centerpiece of the presentation. “Chahan had an instant affinity for my work,” she says. “I remember him telling me it felt as if he had dreamt it and I made it.”

Desire for the creations has exploded, but Minassian exercises his right as an early champion by grabbing the pick of the litter for his clients. “It’s impossible to keep up with him,” she says. “I’ve brought pieces to the gallery with mitts, because they were hot out of the oven.” Ultimately, high demand isn’t a bad problem to have. “People say you should do something you enjoy as a profession. I never understood what that meant until now.”